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Tekah Airport

Tekah airport was built in 1929, the first airport not only in Federated Malay States but also in South East Asia. Taiping airport is located at Jalan Tekah3, off Jalan Muzaffar Shah (formerly Thomson Road) in Taiping. Also known as Tekah Airstrip or Taiping Airport.

Taiping airport was serving as a commercial airport for the use of the British officers and European merchants. Taiping airport also served as the airstrip for the Royal Malayans Air Force (RMF). Until the second world war ended in 1945, the airport served short distance destinations to Alor Star, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. It was also an important route of stopover for daily flight runs from Penang to Singapore. The first Malaya airway company, the Wearne Air Service Company made a daily flight to Taiping, to deliver newspapers to the town.

Taiping airport also achieved fame through the famous American aviator, Amelia Mary Earhart in 1937, when she was doing her world flight and stopover at the Taiping Airport for refueling petrol. Amelia Earhart was doing her flight route from Thailand to Singapore, her permission to land at Taiping Airport was allowed on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya.

Taiping airport also marked a significant in the history of Malaysia, when Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta later became the President and Vice-President of Indonesia landed at the airport on 12 August 1945 for a meeting with Dr. Burhanuddin al-Helmi and Ibrahim Yaakub who were leaders of a political party named KRIS to talk about the possibility of joining Malaya with Indonesia, when Indonesia achieved independence.

Taiping airport has once been chosen as the hub for Global Flying Hospitals (GFH), an international body that brings humanitarian medical support to developing countries. But it was later found that the short runway requires expansion to accommodate A310A Airbus aircrafts. And the expansion of the runway will entail the acquisition of 450ha of land and some terraced houses located around its fringes. Finally Subang Airport was selected to replace Taiping Airport as the hub for GFH.

 – source: Wikipedia

Amelia Earhart and Taiping

– http://stuif.com/blog/

This blog post will have a different format. I will describe chronologically what made me a detective the last three months 🙂

It started with this article in the New Straits Times of 17 June: Historical aerodrome make Taiping what it is today, say experts, conservationists . In this article it says:

The Taiping Aerodrome became famous when aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart made a refuelling stop there on June 7, 1937, before continuing her journey to Singapore and New Guinea in her historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

I had heard about Amelia Earhart, that she disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe, but I knew not much more than that. So I checked Wikipedia, it has a detailed article about her. Here is part of her 1937 flight route:

Of course I directly saw a problem. Refuelling in Taiping on 7 June? On 7 June she crossed the Atlantic! On 20 June she flew from Bangkok to Singapore. Could it be that on that day she made a refuelling stop in Taiping?

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and asked them:

There was no response, and I left it at that.

Fast forward to 30 August, when a THS friend wrote: “Wow! There’s a mural being painted on a wall at the corner shop next to the Taiping hospital complete with her face and an aeroplane. 👏👏👏”

Another THS member sent me a picture of the, still unfinished, mural.

Of course my curiosity was raised again and I repeated my question, does anyone know where this claim comes from. This time there was more response 🙂 . A THS member wrote that there was a separate Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. Here is a quote:

The airport also achieved fame through the famous American aviator, Amelia Earhart in 1937, when she was doing her world flight and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling. Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya.

This solved part of the puzzle. It doesn’t say that Amelia LANDED at Tekah on 7 June, but that on 7 June she got PERMISSION TO LAND at Tekah . I will come back to this Wikipedia article later. Read more …

Picture of the Amelia Earhart mural in Taiping

The statement that Tekah airport was the first airport in South East Asia also comes from the Wikipedia article, and is incorrect, I think. Both Thailand (1914) and Indonesia (1924) were earlier. Read more …